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Executive functions in learning processes: Do they benefit from physical activity?

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Educational Research Review Volume 6, Number 3 ISSN 1747-938X Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


As executive functions play an essential role in learning processes, approaches capable of enhancing executive functioning are of particular interest to educational psychology. Recently, the hypothesis has been advanced that executive functioning may benefit from changes in neurobiological processes induced by physical activity. The present research explored this hypothesis by systematically identifying and reviewing intervention studies targeting the relationship between physical activity and executive functions, distinguishing between different types of intervention and of executive function. The review found considerable evidence for beneficial effects of physical activity on executive functions, with performance benefitting more consistently in inhibition tasks than in dual task coordination, shifting tasks, or combined tasks. Possible physiological explanations are discussed. Open questions for application and future research concern the sustainability of effects, the design of physical activity interventions, and the role of individual differences. Possible interventions applicable to educational settings are discussed.


Barenberg, J., Berse, T. & Dutke, S. Executive functions in learning processes: Do they benefit from physical activity?. Educational Research Review, 6(3), 208-222. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved September 22, 2020 from .

This record was imported from Educational Research Review on January 29, 2019. Educational Research Review is a publication of Elsevier.

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